Bulgaria and North Macedonia agree to work on issues preventing EU talks

The new Prime Ministers of North Macedonia and Bulgaria agreed on January 18 to step up efforts to improve relations between the Balkan neighbours.

Although Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov and his North Macedonian counterpart Dimitar Kovacevski expressed a desire to improve relations between their countries during a meeting in Skopje, they failed to push the policy forward. Bulgarian blockade of EU accession negotiations with North Macedonia.

Since 2020, Bulgaria has blocked the opening of EU accession negotiations with North Macedonia over disputes over history and language, even though the issue has nothing to do with the right to the EU.

Bulgaria’s stubbornness on the North Macedonia issue has frustrated the United States and other EU member states, which want Skopje to continue its Western integration after joining NATO.

Bulgaria says North Macedonia has failed to honor parts of a friendship agreement signed in 2017, with a key issue being Sofia’s demand that North Macedonia’s Bulgarian minority become a constitutionally recognized people like ethnic Albanians.

During the meeting, the two governments agreed to form joint working groups for cooperation on economic issues, infrastructure, European integration, trade, education, culture and history.

“We promised each other to use new energy to improve our relations with respect,” said Kovachevski, who became prime minister this week.

“I am very optimistic about the new dynamic in relations and I can assure you that the results will be visible every week,” said Petkov, who was given the mandate to form a government last month.

With reports from RFE/RL’s Balkan service, RFE/RL’s Bulgarian service, AP, dpa and Reuters

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